Bend isn't the first place that comes to mind as home-base for an outrigger canoe paddle maker—after all, the high desert is a far cry from the shores of Waikiki. But those geographic differences haven't stopped Dave Chun from setting up shop for Bend's only outrigger canoe club, and bringing one of the country's largest paddle makers to town.
Perhaps more appropriately, Kialoa Paddles was born from a strong love for outrigger canoe racing, and Chun started the company when he lived in Oahu, Hawaii, in the early '90s. At that time, Kialoa was producing outrigger canoe paddles and dragon boat paddles, but over the years, paddle sports have evolved and expanded; in particular, Kialoa caught some of the first waves of stand-up paddleboards.
A correspondence facilitated years ago by surf legend and Bend local Gerry Lopez had Chun and Kialoa designing the first stand-up paddles for big wave surfer and stand-up pioneer Laird Hamilton. Those paddles helped Hamilton push out into bigger waves, and gained mainstream appeal for the then-emerging sport.
Now, two-thirds of Kialoa's business is devoted to stand-up paddleboard paddles—and, a year ago, the company relocated to Bend.
Moreover, in what seems oh-so-very-Bend, the company is also pioneering more environmentally sustainable practices in the industry, and has become the first major paddle maker to use recycled materials in its products.
"The problem with making paddles—a product that goes in the water—is that it is really hard to make it recyclable," explains Jared Lorkin, Kialoa's product manager. His office sits just adjacent to the manufacturing facility that produces more than 25,000 paddles a year here in Bend. "Until two years ago," he adds, "the best way to make a 'green' product in the paddle sport industry was to make a product that would last forever." Part of the solution, they discovered, though, has been using recycled resin from a baby diaper manufacturer in the fabrication of the paddle blades. "We are not at the point yet where we can recycle our products," says Lorkin, "but we are starting to use recycled materials and building a product that lasts forever."
The "paddle season" unofficially launches this Sunday, March 29, 10 am – 4 pm, with the 7th Annual Riverhouse Rendezvous Whitewater Slalom Race; the course runs from the Riverhouse Hotel to Tumalo Creek State Park.